Sunday we walked through all of chapter nine in John’s gospel. A man born blind was given sight by Jesus on the Sabbath. This incredible miracle turned into neighborhood gossip that quickly turned into an interrogation by the religious leaders (the jewish authorities). It became less about the transformative work of God and more about a Sabbath controversy—a miracle performed by a rogue itinerant preacher named Jesus on the wrong day of the week which caused the jewish authorities to brand him a heretic. This miracle was inexplainable, inconvenient, unconventional and to the jewish authorities, deniable. It is a story about seeing or not seeing or refusing to see.
This confrontation between the man who can now see and the jewish authorities reveals a conflict between the old assurances that has all the answers about how morality, religion, and nation works and keeps everything in it’s place and under control, and on the other hand the new possibilities that is performed by Jesus. It is a conflict that reaches beyond the pages of Scripture and into our lives today.
This story in John’s gospel is written to us. It comes to us with an invitation to decide, to decide between the way of old assurances and control or the way of new possibilities that extend beyond our imagination or control.
- It asks are you on the side of managed truth that offers the kind of assurances we need to make us feel better, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord?
- It asks are you on the side of asking and talking, asking and talking until you finally hear what you want to hear, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord.
- It asks are you on the side of thinking that those in charge—the elite, the powerful, the successful—have all the answers that can preserve your way of life and give you peace and security, or have you joined in with the new possibilities that comes when Jesus is present as Lord?
Eventually Jesus steps back into John’s telling of the story (Vs. 35). He turns to the man who can see: “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” the one who is beyond explanation and outside of your control?
The man answers, “Who is this Son of Man?”
Jesus says, “You’ve seen him. It is the One speaking to you. It is me!” I am the One you can not fully explain. I am the One you can not control. I am the One who offers new possibilities. It is me. No one else. No other authority. No elected official. No ideology. No bigger bank account. No new habit. No one else. It is me!
The man replies, “I believe,” which in John’s vocabulary means, “I trust you.” I trust you even though I cannot explain you. I trust you even though I cannot control you. I trust you can do the impossible. I trust you because I once was blind but you made me see!
The text tells us that he falls down and worships Jesus. His life has changed and his priorities rearranged. What he once valued or held in high regard, he no longer holds higher than Jesus. What he once counted important comes second now to Jesus. What once meant so much to him now means less than Jesus. He has decided differently and has embraced the new possibilities that come when Jesus is Lord.
Jesus turns to the jewish authorities and says, “I came into this world for judgment”, which is to say, I came in the world to disrupt your old way of doing things based upon your old assurances—“so that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” (Vs. 39)
Jesus came to sort out our old way of thinking about what it means to have a safe, secure, and happy life. Jesus came to disrupt our old assurances of what it means to be a people who have pledged allegiance to the King of the kingdom of God Almighty, and to the way of life for which it stands, one people, under God, indivisible, with true liberty and true justice for all.
What Jesus is saying is that he came into the world to redefine what it means to see.
Of course the jewish authorities’ only response is similar to what ours might be: “We aren’t blind…are we?” (Vs. 40) You can hear their certainty turn to doubt.
Jesus replies and ends the story by saying, “You say you see and your sin remains because the one thing you do not see is Me.” (Vs. 41)
Today this story is being re-written before our very eyes and each one of us are participants. There are those of us who have been given new life by Jesus and have been made to see, and we worship him. Then there are those of us who have become defenders of the old assurances with all its assumptions, and refuse him, though we still “worship” him. Like the jewish authorities, we have seen Jesus give sight to the blind. We have seen Jesus bring life from death, hope from despair. We have seen Jesus usher in new possibilities. And like the man who can see and the authorities who refused to see, we must make a decision. We must decide if we will see. According to John 9 it turns out that seeing is being open to the grace, mercy and justice of Jesus and all the new possibilities he offers to a world bent on control, telling it like it is, fear, power-mongering and violence.
Jesus is an invitation and a call to a new way of life, a life far different than this world or our country values. And we are always deciding. Every day.
We must decide whether or not we will side with the old assurances and its old way of doing things, or whether we will join in on the new possibilities Jesus brings. We must decide again and again if we will trust him or refuse him. You don’t have to decide everything else, only to trust him or to refuse him. That’s all.
I have come to believe that just like we see in this story, deciding best happens during Sabbath as sacred rest. Sacred rest gives us time. It’s when I take time to pause and breathe, where I cease striving, cease questioning, cease talking, cease assuming that I can decide to trust him. I can cast off the blindness of national politics and political discourse with all it’s bluster and fear, promises and frail assurances, and see clearly. I can cast off the blindness that comes from anxiety, or my need to take control, and see clearly. I can cast off the blindness that comes from living as though I know better how to fulfill the desires of my heart than God, and see clearly.
Choosing to practice sacred rest is in itself the outcome of deciding if we will trust Jesus. Will I trust him enough to say no to this or that? Will I trust him enough to say no to the fears I feel or say no to my need to control? Will I trust him enough to say yes to his settling presence and sovereign Lordship?
Like this story, deciding is all about seeing or not seeing or refusing to see Jesus and the new possibilities he brings. Take the time sacred rest offers and decide to see.
See you Sunday.